There are still many reservations in the Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament against the proposal to use EU subsidy for more organic farming. More advertising for organic food and more EU money for farmers who want to switch to organic farming are two important spearheads in that plan.
Commissioners Timmermans (Environment), Kyriakides (Food) and Wojciechowski (Agriculture) argue in their Green Deal that a quarter of the agricultural land should be organic by 2030. Now that is still 8.5 percent. The Netherlands is well below that at 3.7 percent, one of the lowest percentages in the EU.
Many MEPs asked Commissioner Wojciechowski on Wednesday afternoon in the regular comagri meeting how he intends to achieve this. They also say that there is insufficient consumer demand for organic products, and that these are usually more expensive than 'regular' foods.
To keep the price down, the EU countries can lower their VAT on organic food products, Wojciechowski suggested. He also says that there is a large 'latent' demand for organic, once that ('short chains') is more easily available to customers. Nowadays there are hardly any 'natural stores' with organic and / or ecological products in many European countries.
The Agriculture Committee believes that the EU should do more to improve biodiversity, but that this should not be at the expense of the regular agricultural sector. The Comagri committee has many reservations and sets all kinds of conditions for this new priority within the EU subsidy streams.
An ambitious EU strategy to halt biodiversity loss will have to be based on scientific facts and figures, it was emphasized. In doing so, the Committee reiterated the earlier plea to first conduct feasibility studies into the possible consequences of the Green Deal.
The Dutch MEP Bert-Jan Ruissen (SGP) also seriously questioned the objective that a quarter of the area should be organic: “I can imagine that Brussels wants to stimulate the market demand for organic products. But that does not rhyme with an over-imposed purpose for agricultural land. You cannot expect farmers to produce things when there is no demand for them. ”
The new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will have a key role to play in protecting agricultural biodiversity, says the Agriculture Commission. That 'agri wish list' is now being submitted to the Environment Committee (ENVI), which will probably adopt the European Parliament's biodiversity strategy next week.